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Arts and science collide to transform the Great Hall in light show extravaganza

- Wits University

The #Wits100 Visible Resonance Light Show on 2 September at 7pm on the Great Hall façade will reflect, create, improvise, and imagine Wits’ stories.

Visible Resonance is a multimedia activation on the façade of Wits’ Great Hall to mark the University’s centenary at the Homecoming Weekend on campus from 2-4 September 2022.

It's free. All welcome. No booking required. Simply turn up at the Great Hall Piazza and listen for the drums to summon you!

The #Wits100 Visible Resonance Light Show combines light projection and animation technology, improvised dance, theatrics, percussion and real time artistry to deliver a dynamic and poetic reading of the University’s past, present and future.

This multimedia extravaganza by Marcus Neustetter, The Trinity Session and OMAi, in collaboration with various participating artists, Harmonics, B&S Sound, the Wits Choir, the Wits Department of Theatre and Performance, and you, is an improvised, interactive, euphoric, and entrancing experience for everyone! 

The Visible Resonance Light Show is a series of improvised sets that take the creative energy of the studio into the public Piazza, and presents the raw makings of new futures through encounters across different disciplines, technologies, and visions. The public can expect multi-layered images of various textures, historical and imagined stories,” says Neustetter.

The Light show will also be livestreamed on Wits University’s YouTube at 19:00 on Friday, 2 September 2022. 

City resonance

A Wits Fine Arts alumnus, Marcus Neustetter is a cultural activist and producer entrenched in Johannesburg. His multidisciplinary approach features the production of art at its intersection with science and technology, and includes site specific installations, mobile and virtual interventions, and socially engaged projects worldwide.

Neustetter and fellow Wits alumnus, Stephen Hobbs, established The Trinity Session in 2001. The Trinity Session makes art in complex, social-public situations; where the dynamics of context, site, available resources, and creative solutions converge to create unique artistic conditions and opportunities.

The Wits100 Visible Resonance Light Show features interactive performances by the Wits Theatre and Performance Department

It’s no accident that the Wits Great Hall is the site of the #Wits100 Visible Resonance Light Show. The University, too, is as much a part of Johannesburg as is gold mining and civil activism. Similarly, Neustetter and his contemporary art production team The Trinity Session, are defined by exchanges with the City of Gold in relation to Africa.

“The Trinity Session team Johannesburg has always served as a catalytic reference point for how to think beyond the often conventional structures of the art world, and to forge new relationships across disciplines in search of change. Wits University is an important anchor in the city and the site of innovative diverse practices. The Great Hall façade is therefore perfect to host this visualisation of a collaborative journey into the unknown,” says Neustetter.

Innovative art and tech

It is at the #Wits100 Visible Resonance Light Show that context, site, creativity – and technology – combine to illuminate Wits’ history while improvising imagined futures.

“In the context of the ‘moonshot moment’ that Wits Vice-Chancellor, Professor Vilakazi referred to, the Visible Resonance Light Show reflects the University’s research innovations and aspirations, while remaining rooted in the locally relevant change-making that binds us to the underlying networks on earth,” says Neustetter, whom the Wits Advancement Division commissioned specifically for this aspect of the Centenary Campaign.

To prepare for the light show and in pursuit of a common artistic language, The Trinity Session and OMAi explored various relevant sites. These sites at Wits included the Structured Light Laboratory in the School of Physics, the Origins Centre, the Cradle of Humankind, the Planetarium, and the Wits Art Museum. In the city, content has been sourced from change-making community projects in Noordgesig, Soweto, and growing-and-greening projects in Orchards.

The Wits Visible Resonance Light Show by Marcus Neustetter, The Trinity Session and OMAi features various performing artists, drummers, Wits Theatre and Performance

Neustetter explains: “We have proactively gathered meaning and inspiration from different contexts and we have tested locally relevant form and content. Using the Tagtool app, we are able to respond immediately and build on our personal practices and research areas through intuitive mark-making and collective projection. The process and tool are both experimental in nature and thus become the perfect media for our final expressions on the Great Hall façade.”

Tagtool is a light drawing app invented by artist group, OMAi [Office for Media and Arts Innovation], which enables the user to paint and animate in real time. The app transforms interconnected iPads into collaborative visual live instruments that enable painting with light, creating animated artworks and images, and telling improvised stories.

OMAi’s participation in the Visible Resonance Light Show is supported by the Embassy of Austria.

Watch a video of what the Tagtool app can do, ahead of experiencing it visually and aurally enhanced and at scale on the façade of the Great Hall. The basic version of Tagtool is free.

Illuminating networks

“Tapping into The Trinity Session’s current responses to today’s complex conditions and potential future crises, the Visible Resonance Light Show encourages artists and collaborators to reflect on tensions in the urban and natural environment, and social and natural [mycelium] networks, towards co-production and innovation in cross-disciplinary practice,” says Neustetter.

Indeed, research at Wits in the 21st Century is increasingly cross-disciplinary and multifaceted. Research practice today frequently straddles STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] to integrate with the arts as STEAM. The 2018 Watershed exhibition, in which Neustetter participated, is one such example.

More recently, photonics and optics research at Wits has illuminated how data can be transferred via light. Professor Andrew Forbes heads up the Structured Light Laboratory, which hosts a laser show in the foyer of the Physics Building at the Homecoming Weekend on 2 September at 18:00.

Travelling at the speed of light, one would encounter a black hole in our galaxy, the first image of which Wits Professor Roger Deane helped photograph. This image was revealed to the world in May this year, at a global simultaneous press conference at the Wits Planetarium – which is freely accessible over the Homecoming Weekend – and ahead of its reimagining as a Digital Dome in Wits’ centenary year.

All images by OMAi.